Chinese Song – Words from the West Wind

Lotus Pond at the Botanical Garden in Taipei, Taiwan

Thanks (but, no thanks) to slugs, deer, squirrels and wild rabbits, we did not have much to harvest from our vegetable garden this year. Still, I am happy to have autumn come and ease us into winter. Admiring the fall scenery of green, gold and red, I think of an old song named “Words from the Westwind”, with music by 黄自 (Huáng Zì), and lyrics by 廖辅叔 (Liào Fǔshū). Here is the link to a nice performance of this song.

Xīfēng de Huà
Words from the West Wind

Qùnián wǒ huílái,
When I came back last year,

nǐmen gāng chuān xīn mián páo.
You had just donned your new gown.

Jīntiān wǒ lái kàn nǐmen;
Today I come to visit you,

Nǐmen biàn pàng yòu biàn gāo!
How stout and tall you have grown!

Nǐmen kě jìde,
I wonder if you still remember,

chí lǐ héhuā liánpeng?
The lotus in the pond formed pods?

Huā shǎo bù chóu méi yánsè,
Blooms are scarce, but there’ll still be colors,

wǒ bǎ shùyè dōu rǎn hóng
For I shall tint the leaves with red.

As you may know, west winds are associated with fair weather. Therefore, you would expect kind words from the west wind. In fact, you can tell that the west wind is talking to a bunch of children. (xīn) means new, and 棉袍 (mián páo) are quilted cotton gowns or jackets. Before winter arrives, parents usually give their children new jackets to wear to keep them warm. The big give-away is on the forth line. Only children and youth can keep growing big and tall. (biàn) means to change or to become. (pàng) means plump, chubby or stout, and (gāo) means tall. (yòu) means again or also.

There is no mention of the season of the year in the lyrics. However, you can guess from the context that it is autumn, or 秋天 (qiūtiān). In the fall, the lotus flowers turn into pods, which contain edible lotus seeds. Lotus seed paste makes delicious filling for moon cakes. Here is an interesting article about lotus pods and lotus seeds.

不愁 (bù chóu) means need not worry about something.

Wǒ xīwàng shìjièshàng suǒyǒu de rén dōu bù chóu chī bù chóu chuān.
I hope all the people in the world won’t have to worry about want of food or clothing.

There are fewer flowers in autumn than in spring, but we need not worry about lack of colors. The west wind will color the leaves red for us. Here the word (rǎn) means to dye. This word also means to contaminate, to acquire a bad habit or to catch a disease.

Dāngxīn bùyào bèi chuánrǎn dào gǎnmào.
Take care not to catch a cold.

Please see Chapter 23 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” for additional words, expressions and songs related to the four seasons.

Learn how to use Chinese words to best another

We humans are competitive by nature. Why, that’s part of our natural survival instinct. What a wonderful world it would be if we could just let all our aggression and physical prowess catapult us to a winning position on the sports arena rather than harm other human beings on the battlefield.

比较 (bǐjiào) means to compare or to compete. It is also used as an adverb that means “rather” or “comparatively”. (bǐ) is a formal word that has the same meaning as 比较 (bǐjiào), plus a few additional meanings, such as “to gesture”, “to be in the proximity of”, and “a ratio”. When announcing a ball game score of, for instance, “5 to 3”, you would say: 5 比 3 (wǔ bǐ sān).

One way to form the comparative of a Chinese adjective is to precede it with 比较 (bǐjiào). For example,

Tā hǎoxiàng bǐjiào yǒushàn.
He seems to be more amicable.

Tā bǐ wŏ gāo.
He is taller than I.

更加 (gèngjiā) means “even more”. It is often abbreviated as (gèng).

Tā bǐ nǐ gèng yǒuqián.
She is even wealthier than you.

With comparison and competition comes frustration. A Chinese saying goes like this:

人比人, 气死人.
Rén bǐ rén, qì sǐ rén.
Trying to measure up to others is totally maddening.

A healthier attitude is expressed in the following idiom:

比上不足, 比下有餘.
Bǐshàngbùzú, bǐxiàyǒuyú.
This may fall short of the best, but it’s still better than the worst.

The superlative is usually formed by preceding the adjective with (zuì).

Wā shì zuì róngyì xué.
Frog style is the easiest to learn.

Probably everyone has heard the following lines at some point:

Good, better, best, never go to rest
’till good gets better, and better, best.

It would be a mouthful to try and translate this adage into Chinese verbatim. No worries. This philosophy has already been condensed into a four-character idiom in Chinese:

Even when you have achieved excellence, still keep improving.

Click on this link to see a video featuring “Anything You Can Do”, a song composed by Irving Berlin for the Broadway musical “Annie Get Your Gun”. See if you can sing the following Chinese lines to the tune of this fun song:

Wúlùn nĭ huì shénme,
No matter what you can do,

Wŏ bǐ nĭ gèng huì.
I can do even better than you.

Wúlùn wŏ zuò shénme,
No matter what I do,

It’s a cinch and doubly good.
(Half the effort brings twice the effect.)

Nǐ bùhuì.
No, you can’t.

Wŏ jiù huì!
I sure can.

Nǐ bùhuì.
No, you can’t.

Wŏ jiù huì!
I sure can.

Nǐ bùhuì.
No, you can’t.

Wŏ zuì huì!
I’m the best!

Wŏ zuì huì!
I’m the best!

Now, please calm down and review the usage of (huì to be able to) and other commonly used auxiliary verbs covered in Chapter 16 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.

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